Secondary Education

Dutch education for young teens and youths...

Secondary education (Voortgezet Onderwijs) caters for those aged approximately 12 to 18 on either a full-time or part-time basis.

Types of secondary courses

There are three types of secondary courses known as VWO (Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs), HAVO (Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs), and VMBO (Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs). All begin with a period of basic education which generally lasts for three years. A set of common subjects including Dutch, sciences, mathematics, geography, history, physical education and the arts as well as other modern languages including English will be studied during this period.

Students will sometimes move between these courses or go to a different type of further education establishment than was originally intended.

Pre-university education (VWO)

Pre-university education (Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs) lasts six years in total and aims to prepare students for academic studies at a higher level (university, for example). VWO courses are provided in three types of school with slightly different specialisation known as the atheneum, the gymnasium and the lyceum (a school that combines atheneum and gymnasium). The VWO offers four study options, for example natural sciences and technology.

Senior general secondary education (HAVO)

Senior general secondary education (Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs) lasts five years and gives students the right to go on to higher vocational education (HBO). Again there are four options as with the VWO.

Pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO)

Pre-vocational secondary education (Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs) lasts four years and is designed to prepare students for upper secondary vocational education (MBO). It has four sectors with fixed subject combinations such as technology and economics.

Fees and after completion

Pupils must complete the first stage of secondary education (the four years of VMBO or years one to three of HAVO or VWO) within five years.

Government funded secondary schools are paid for via taxation but parents will still be asked to pay for books, some teaching materials and pay a yearly fee (oudersfonds). Financial assistance is available for pupils under eighteen in full-time primary or secondary education dependant on parental income.

Secondary education ends with examinations. It is normal for these to include a compulsory national examination which is the same for all schools and is taken at the same time throughout the country as well as additional tests set by the individual school.

The school's own tests may combine subjects and may be set at different times to the national tests and even prior to the last year. This is now known as the examination file (examendossier).

Marks from both school and national tests are combined to give a final grade.

Pupils successfully completing basic education will be given a certificate (getuigschrift basisvorming).